Sometimes Eloping Is Best for Everyone … or, Canby Hall Super Edition #1, Something Old, Something New

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What does this blurb mean? The bride doesn't go missing, it's the groom! Who edited these books, wolves?

What does this blurb mean? The bride doesn’t go missing, it’s the groom! Who edited these books, wolves?

This is the back cover. which is totally just a reprint of the cover art for #10, Make Me a Star. What does this have to do with Alison's wedding? I guess that Dana is, as always, the star.

This is the back cover. which is totally just a reprint of the cover art for #10, Make Me a Star. What does this have to do with Alison’s wedding, you ask? I guess that Dana is, as always, the star.

 

Hello my adorable fellow masochists! I mean, I’m assuming you’re fellow masochists since, like me, you presumably read this nonsense growing up without guns pointed to your heads. In general, I have an overall feeling of benign nostalgia towards this series, but certain installments really make my blood boil and my questions for the Maker of the Universe multiply. Shall we get started on the recap of one of them? (After that intro, how could you resist?)

This extra-long clunker opens with Andy, Jane and Toby walking across campus lamenting the advent of winter, apparently now the best of friends. Jane says that Canby Hall becomes major snowball-fight territory in the winter and all the teachers stay indoors because of it. I’ve never heard this mentioned before or since. It is then noted that Jane likes to show off her Canby Hall knowledge a little since she’s the only one of them who was there the year before, and that Andy and Toby indulge her, because “the three of them indulged each other in lots of little ways.” Uh, really? It’s still October. Six weeks ago, you guys were plotting round-robin assassinations of each other. Anyway, they bump into PA, who guilts them into signing up for the annual Canby Hall Leaf Rake, which is about as much fun as it sounds. Then they start gossiping about how housemother Alison has been walking around swooning and taking lots of mysterious little trips to Boston on the weekends, without her boyfriend Michael the guidance counselor. They wonder what’s going on. Conveniently enough, Alison has called a dormwide meeting for that night.

Then there’s some descriptive prose about how awesome Alison is and how she’s the perfect cross between a kid and a grown-up. Evidence of this is supposed to be the fact that she’s always looking for her glasses which are on her head, and that she shows up to the meeting with eyeliner on one eye but not the other. I assume that anyone who was a fan of the Canby Hall books was also a fan of the Baby-Sitters’ Club books, so remember Dawn’s mother Sharon? She was supposed to be all goofy and absent-minded, as illustrated by the fact that she would put shoes in the freezer and, like, credit cards in the toaster. This is just so far beyond the realm of charmingly quirky. What it is is concerning, from a neurological standpoint. I think both Sharon and Alison need a thorough workup for Alzheimer’s, stat.

Anyway, big surprise to no one, Alison has called the meeting to tell the girls that she is leaving Canby Hall because she is getting married, but not to Michael. She’s marrying a TV anchor from Boston named David Gordon. And she’s getting married at the Canby Hall chapel. And her maid of honour is going to be … @#!*% DANA, of the original 407 girls. This is where my respect for Alison, if one can have respect for a TOTALLY FICTIONAL CHARACTER (um, I may need professional help) took a long walk off a short pier. Does this woman have no friends? Does she have no life? (Pot, meet kettle.) Presumably she had a rich and full existence prior to taking this job, could she do a little something to show it? Getting married at the school instead of one of your hometowns, OK fine. I’m a UVA alum and they are super-obsessed with their chapel (which is admittedly lovely) so I guess I can see that happening in real life. But asking your former student to be your maid of honour? And making it the insufferable DANA, at that? And inviting her idiot roommates back too? OUT OF ALL THE HUNDREDS OF GIRLS YOU’VE PROBABLY CARED FOR DURING YOUR TIME AT THIS SCHOOL? I can’t take it. I just can’t, you guys. Ugh.

We then cut to the poor, innocent state of Hawaii, which has no idea its share of the ozone is about to be decimated by the rapid swelling of @#!*% DANA’s stupid gorgeous head. Dana gets called back from a run to take a long-distance call at her father’s house that’s full of a) static, b) a very tiny Alison voice coming from far away, c) mentions of how expensive the call is going to be, and d) other 1980s anachronisms. Dana decides to go back to the East Coast for Thanksgiving instead of Christmas. How very simple! No mention of whether her mom will mind! Dana convinces Alison to let Dana call Shelley and Faith to tell them the news, which is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of. Letting someone else tell your supposedly close friends you’re getting married, and to whom? Gag me. Anyway Alison says she “really need[s]” the three of them there, and I lose my lunch.

When I revive, Dana has talked to Faith, who has talked her into letting her (Faith) call Shelley, and all of them are surprised that Alison is getting married, shocked that it’s not to Michael, and all set to drop everything and come in a matter of weeks. Meanwhile, Jane, Andy and Toby watch the evening news to get their first look at Alison’s soon-to-be Main Man. Toby is anxious, and apparently unconsciously sucks her thumb when she’s anxious. WHAT? This has never been mentioned before or since, and I refuse to believe it. Tough-as-nails cowgirl Toby? A ridiculous habit to give her. Anyway, she’s worried about what she’ll wear. In order to pad out this “Super Edition” by the requisite 80 extra pages or so, Jane and Andy plan a trip to the mall to find Toby an outfit.

Before they can go to the mall, they have the obligatory Leaf Rake. David Gordon shows up in a sportscar and swoops Alison into his arms in front of everyone, including PA. Michael happens to be walking by, sees this, and looks stunned and angry, then turns on his heel and leaves. This, my friends, is what is apparently known in the teen-literature world as “intrigue.” The 407 girls then head for the mall. They start their search for the perfect wedding ensemble in Sandra’s Styles, a promising establishment if ever I heard of one. The trendy, hip outfits they pick out for Toby are

1) A pair of pleated pants and a slouchy jacket in forest green, with a shirt in green and rust stripes,

2) A beige wool skirt, a beige silk shirt, and a beige-and-white striped gangster vest

Imagine this in beige.

Imagine this in beige …

3) And a blue dress with forties shoulder pads and a “splash” of sequins across the front

 

And imagine this with bigger shoulder pads.

… and this with bigger shoulder pads. And splashier sequins.

 

OK, hold up for a minute. I know Toby is supposed to be this backwoods naive country girl and Jane and Andy are supposed to be the worldly urban fashion experts, but with help like this, who needs experts? Are you really telling me Toby wouldn’t be better off in jeans and cowboy boots? Or, say, a barrel?

Anyway, Toby is having fun trying on all the clothes and is hamming it up, until she catches sight of Randy watching her from outside the store, and she runs back into the dressing room and starts to cry. Again, crying because a guy saw her goofing around – add this to the list of Things Toby Houston Would Never Do. Randy tells Jane to pass on the message that he thought Toby looked “real pretty.” Toby’s day is made.

Later Toby goes riding at Randy’s ranch. It is briefly mentioned that Randy sometimes recites poems to her. Uh, he did that to Dana, not Toby. I am beginning to think that whoever wrote this (Carol White) never actually read any of the previous books in this series. Anyway, Toby tells him that Alison is getting married, and that she (Toby) never plans on getting married because she doesn’t want to wash anyone’s socks out at night or change her name, which is what all the wives do back in Rattlesnake Creek. Randy enlightens her on the ways of the twentieth century. Toby reconsiders her marriage embargo, but says she could never marry Randy. That’s sort of out of nowhere, Tobes, since he never asked you to and since it’s obvious you’re in love with him. ANYWAY. Toby also mentions that Dana’s coming for the wedding, Randy gets all broody, Toby learns that Randy and Dana used to date, and Randy says he’ll be making himself scarce that weekend. Toby gets jealous.

Meanwhile Jane and Andy are over at Oakley Prep watching a practice session of Cary’s band Ambulance. Conveniently, Matt is now their lighting guy, so two crushes can be killed with one stone, or something like that. The guys tease Cary about something or other (all I got out of that anecdote was that one of this super-cool band’s high-school-aged members is named Harvey) and Cary takes it good-naturedly. Jane is hurt because he would have bristled if she’d tried to tease him that way, and then she realizes that it’s probably because he really cares what she thinks of him. OH PUH-LEEZE. Then Jane asks him to be her date for Alison’s wedding, and this greasy rock-n’-roll wishful thinking idiot actually refuses because weddings are a “waste of time.” Hello, isn’t she your girlfriend? What the @#!*% do people (actually, just Jane, I don’t remember any other girl ever throwing themselves at this Adonis) see in this guy? Jane runs away crying.

Thanksgiving, the weekend of Alison’s wedding, quickly approaches. This year, nearly every girl in their dorm is staying at school for her wedding instead of going home for the holiday. These are high school students! I’m sure their parents across the country are thrilled. Alison is nervous about what the old 407 girls will think of David, since when they graduated in June, she was still very involved with Michael. So again, HOLD UP. She was very involved with Michael in June and she’s MARRYING another guy by November? This chick moves fast! Anyway, there’s a knock at her door and three girls in ratty bathrobes with mud masks on their faces are in the hallway. Unsurprisingly, they turn out to be the mega-annoying Old Girls of 407, although how they managed to disguise themselves when they all just flew in and are supposed to be staying with Alison is not explained.

The next morning, the Old Girls decide to do the first of their many acts of Supreme Annoyingness this weekend and visit their old room. They stand outside 407 (again, why do none of these rooms have locks?) and criticize the “turkeys” who painted over their black walls with a “pukey” blue. These dimwits really have a lot of nerve. Unsurprisingly, Jane arrives at the room, hears them, and is offended. I am offended alongside her. The authors’ collective hero-worship of @#!*% DANA continues when Dana is described as the “socially smoothest” of the three Old Girls and she tries to apologize. Dana and Shelley then leave to go see Maggie, you know, Dana’s sister, who she hasn’t bothered to catch up with yet, and Faith runs into Andy. They have another excruciating exchange in which Andy acknowledges that the last time they saw each other, Andy’s accusations of rampant racism on campus were unfounded. She admits to not getting the lead in a play because of talent, not colour. But in practically the same breath, Andy starts hounding Faith again about how Faith MUST have felt like an outsider when she was at Canby Hall. (Of note, this may have been true, if Faith dressed anything like she was dressed for this conversation, which was in parachute pants and a jacket with spaceman shoulders, whatever that means.) When Faith denies this for the umpteenth time (I can’t believe I’m defending an Old Girl), Andy comes out with this quote I have remembered for twenty-five years, ever since I first read it: “You’ve been a long time in a white world now. Maybe what happens is you start to lose your blackness a little. Maybe you start to go a little beige.”

OH GIVE ME A BREAK. Meanwhile, PA is parading candidates for Alison’s job in and out of buildings, and each one is more strict and uptight than the next. Also, Dana helps Maggie dye her hair blue, for absolutely no forward plot propulsion or otherwise discernible reason.

On Thanksgiving morning, Dana wakes up on Alison’s floor, where she’s been sleeping for the past two nights. She and the other Old Girls have been drawing straws for the futon, and Shelley and Faith have won both nights. How unfair is that? Would any friends actually say to each other, “Nope, sorry, you sleep on the floor till kingdom come, as long as you keep drawing the short straw”? I detest the Old Girls. Anyway, Dana goes for a run down to the Crowell farm to see Randy. They see each other, he’s cold at first, then warms up, he mysteriously mentions that he already knows all the details about Alison’s wedding, Dana gets jealous at the thought of him being with some other girl, he tries to kiss her (WHAT IN THE WHAT????), she rebuffs him, he jumps on his horse and gallops away. I want to bisect Dana’s aorta. Or maybe mine, for reading this.

Dana and Toby run into each other on the road leading to the Crowell farm. Dana realizes that Randy’s mystery girl might be Toby. Toby finds Randy huddling like a weenie in the hayloft and he says he wants to be alone. Toby figures out he had some kind of clash with Dana. I literally want all of these people to move to Uzbekistan. But then I think about how unfair that would be to the Uzbeks.

The Old Girls have decided to squeeze in all of their favourite Canby Hall activities during their weekend visit. (They are apparently all staying with the bride-to-be in her tiny apartment, ON THE WEEKEND OF HER WEDDING. Neanderthals.) One of these favourite things is apparently swimming in the Canby Hall pool, which I promise you was never mentioned in the 17 books of theirs to which I subjected myself. In the pool, Shelley mentions that she went into town looking for her old boyfriend Tom, whom she found giving a wildflower bouquet to a new girl named Cynthia. Faith’s amazed response: “Tom?! Mr. Sensible? I’d like to have gotten a picture of that.” Are you kidding? Since when was Tom Mr. Sensible? This is the same blithering halfwit who dressed up as a clown to juggle outside a movie theatre for literally no reason. Anyway, the horrible Old Girls all make fun of Cynthia when they find out she wears socks with bunnies on them, even after it’s mentioned that not only does Shelley still have her old boyfriend Paul in the picture, but now has a new boyfriend Mark at college. In what universe are any of these catty no-goods attractive to anyone of the opposite sex?

They then head to Pizza Pete’s for dinner, and naturally Pizza Pete’s is open on Thanksgiving. They’re meeting the New Girls for a planning session for Alison’s bridal shower, which is apparently scheduled for about 18 hours before her wedding. The Old Girls wonder why the New Girls have to be in on the planning, and the fact that the shower was the New Girls’ idea does not seem to register in their pea brains at all. As Faith puts it, “Alison’s our friend. She’s just their housemother.” As far as I can see, she’s ALL OF YOU PEOPLE’S HOUSEMOTHER. The Old Girls show up late, which the New Girls take as a power play. Problems immediately ensue when they can’t agree on what pizza to order. Faith secretly asks the waitress to add a double helping of anchovies to the New Girls’ pizza. First of all, what a Glass Bowl thing to do. Secondly, what waitress would agree to do it and needlessly endanger her tip? Anyway, they then spend what feels like hours (to me) arguing about where to hold the shower and what theme to have and what gift to give Alison, and each of them thinks They Know All. They decide to have it at some health-food cafe Alison likes (there is apparently a shocking number of establishments to choose from in sleepy little Greenleaf) and then turn their attention to fighting over who knows Alison best and whether David is really right for her. These infants then come to the conclusion that if David isn’t right for Alison, it’s their job to warn her. Which they’re going to start looking into with only two days left till the wedding, apparently.

That night, the New Girls decide to spy on Alison and David at the Rialto, Greenleaf’s revival movie house (which has never been mentioned until now) in order to determine whether they should allow her to go through with this marriage. (Where are Alison’s parents? Her friends? IS THERE ANYONE ELSE IN HER LIFE BESIDES THESE FOOLS?) In a showering display of imbecility, they dress up as old men with long beards, robes, and caps with tassels dangling from them, and babble in a made-up language while sitting in front of the lovebirds. (Wouldn’t it be easier to spy on them if you were sitting behind them? Why do I still demand logic from this series? You guys, there’s something seriously the matter with me.) Alison figures out that the old men are Jane, Andy and Toby, so she and David decide to “have a little fun with them.” David talks loudly about how a woman’s place is in the home keeping the man happy, and how his mom is moving in with them, and how Alison should take up mushroom farming (???) and how he won’t want her associating with the girls of Canby Hall after the wedding, lest they put their modern ideas back in her head. The girls are outraged and jump up, breaking character, although the thing they seem most appalled about is David’s hastily made-up nickname, Lissy. Alison wonders why she’s being tormented by costumed girls of 407 all the time – first the Old Girls in their bathrobes and mud masks, and now this. I’ll tell you why, Lissy – because you encourage them by including them in your wedding instead of eloping, changing your identity, and never communicating with any of them again. Anyway then Alison and David expound on David’s wonderfulness, and how the girls don’t need to worry, because Alison would never fall in love with a jerk. They have plans for a marriage that will be a “partnership of equals.” David will support them while Alison gets a graduate degree in art history, and then he gets to “just loaf and fool around with my painting” while she supports them in whatever lucrative position a graduate degree in art history can get you. Probably, in this day and age, something at Burger King. Anyway, if they have kids, Alison’s going to stay home for the first year, and David will stay home for the second year. Living on one income … how very quaint! David buys them all hot chocolate and the New Girls are convinced he’s God’s gift to Alison. Maybe if I buy the IRS hot chocolate, they’ll give me an extension on my taxes. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

Anyway, so since stupid too-cool Cary refused to go to the wedding, Jane asked Neal, who was thrilled to be invited. After all the trouble she went to breaking up with him in the last book, she reels him in again? How dumb can you be, Barrett? Just go with your friends and be done with it. Isn’t Neal already kind of into Toby at this point anyway? OH MY GOODNESS WHY AM I BOTHERING WITH LOGIC AGAIN. Toby, who somehow has an extra locker while Andy has none, decides to go there to get her cowboy boots with the snakeskin inserts – she’s gonna be dressin’ up fancy for Alison’s shower shindig, y’all! She finds Dana trying to break into her old locker and moping around because they changed the combination to her old lock. Then Dana exposits about how coming back to Canby Hall just isn’t the same, everything has changed, blah blah blah. Toby asks her if she’s talking about Randy, which of course she is. Dana tells her she doesn’t understand why Randy thought he and Dana could just pick up where they left off, Toby tells some Texas fable that explains why he still thinks he has a chance, and Dana’s interest in Randy is renewed because of his mysterious friendship with Toby, which makes him seem full of “enticing secrets.” Could this chick be more fickle? Then they babble about how the Old Girls are invited to a brunch at Alison’s so they can finally meet David, and how sad Michael is, and how someone should go talk to him about his heartbreak.

Cut to Faith taking her stupid pictures AGAIN, this time for yet another class assignment on “Disappearing New England.” Tell me, why would the University of Rochester care about that? She’s worried that Andy’s comment about her being beige might have a grain of truth. Then she sees Andy coming by, and neither wants to escalate into a full-blown fight, but “neither wanted to lose points by being really nice to the other. And so the conversation was like a plant with lots of tiny, hidden thorns.” Seriously, are you kidding me? How immature are these people? I see no point in recapping their interaction. Suffice to say: DUMB.

Next we move to Alison’s brunch for the Old Girls, where trouble is brewing (PUN ALERT) between Alison and David. Why, you ask? Because he made the coffee strong, which she didn’t like, and he took her distaste as a slur on his culinary skills, of which he was very proud. He then called her coffee weak, which upset her because she was very insecure in the kitchen. Then they somehow segue into David being sick of being put on display for her friends all the time. Their fight ends with David yelling that she can entertain her own friends while he goes somewhere where there’s no talk of weddings, and as he turns to storm out the door, he sees the Old Girls all standing there in dismay, having heard the entire thing.

OK, this is getting ridiculous. David, what do you think getting ready for marriage is? Of course you have to meet your spouse-to-be’s family and friends and develop relationships with all of them. What, did Alison not have to meet anyone from his side? Is this a case of two totally friendless, family-less people (other than the Canby Hall parasites girls) marrying each other? In that case, it’s probably a match made in heaven.

So unsurprisingly, after having witnessed this display, the Old Girls all hate David. And as much as it brings up my lunch to do it, I have to agree with them here. If I ever saw a fight like this between my friend and her fiance in which he complained about meeting her loved ones, I would be convincing her to call off her wedding faster than you can say “truffle canape.” Anyway, so they all talk to Alison. Faith says David may just have pre-wedding jitters. Dana asks Alison if she’s moving too fast, having only known David for seven months. Alison says they’re both just stressed out, and that the week before she herself blew up about some weird gift his uncle sent them and when neither of them wanted to write the thank-you note, she threw the gift at the wall. Dana says with some (understandable) concern that she can’t imagine Alison and Michael ever having a fight like that. Alison says the romance had been fizzling between her and Michael for some time. Shelley shows the first spark of good sense I think she’s ever shown in this series and says excitement doesn’t necessarily last, but true love becomes deeper, and what’s going to happen in 6 months when the excitement with David wears off? Alison’s response:

“I don’t know, maybe I’m making the biggest mistake of my life … But all the plans are set now and I’m not one to go back on a decision once I’ve made it. And so, for better or worse, it looks like I’m going to marry David Gordon on Saturday.”

Wow. Nothing like that attitude to ensure a successful marriage!

After this brunch, the Old Girls head down to 407 to conference with the New Girls on a present for Alison. Really, why can’t each threesome get her a present and not involve each other at all? Oh, because this book still needs about 60 more pages of padding, you say? Got it. Naturally Dana takes it upon herself to lead, and naturally, tension is everywhere. They decide to get Alison presents based on the “Something old, something new” rhyme (hence the title! CLEVER!) and draw lots. There will be 6 people and 4 lots, so two gifts will have pairs shopping together. My goodness, why couldn’t the Old Girls take the first half of the rhyme and the New Girls take the second half? Again, my medical problem rears its ugly head: a desire for logic. So Faith and Andy, unsurprisingly, are paired together as they both draw “something new”, Jane and Dana both draw “something old,” Toby gets “something borrowed,” and Shelley gets “something blue.”

Dana and Jane go to Laurel’s Old Stuff, another place in Greenleaf they apparently both love but which we have never heard of before and will never hear of again. Jane talks about how great David is and Dana expresses her skepticism. The store owner, Laurel, naturally knows and loves Alison, so gives them an antique camisole for next to nothing. Toby gets a mysterious present out of her extra locker that later turns out to be her lucky horseshoe. Shelley goes to a sporting goods store looking for a blue mask, flippers and snorkel, because Alison and David are taking a delayed honeymoon to the Caribbean. What kind of nonsense is that? You just rent the equipment when you get down there, you don’t buy it in Massachusetts and lug it through Customs with you! Plus you have to get the right size flippers, you can’t just pick up any old pair. And you don’t buy any of this junk anyway unless you’re a professional or something, because you use it twice, tops, and never pick it up again. DUH. Anyway, when Shelley walks into the sporting store, she sees Tom’s new girlfriend Cynthia behind the counter. They end up looking for the equipment together, and it turns out that Cynthia wears her weird clothes because she’s poor, and she really loves Tom, and Tom has said nice things about Shelley. Shelley feels bad. I feel good. That Shelley feels bad, I mean. It’s about time. Meanwhile Faith and Andy are shopping together and have resolved their conflicts by, you know, talking about them in an adult manner. Amazing how that works. They buy a talking toaster for Alison and bump into Michael, who’s happy to see them but then hurries off when the subject of Alison comes up.

That evening, all six girls head to Alison’s shower. The Old Girls start talking about how crappy David is and how Alison needs to get out of the wedding. The New Girls act like lemmings and defend David, accusing the Old Girls of undermining Alison’s confidence in her decision. When they reach the health food cafe, none other than Cary is waiting there for them. He tells Jane he was an idiot (no argument here) and that he’d love to go to the wedding with her. She tries to tell him that she’s already invited someone else, but he “leaned in to kiss her too soon” and then runs off, so she doesn’t have a chance. This is an ongoing pattern with Jane. She doesn’t seem to have “chances” to be honest with people. How much time does she need to explain a situation, a week? So now she’s got two dates for the wedding, neither of whom know the other is coming.

The shower, set to Bob Seger, Alison’s favourite (I have no words) goes well at first, but to the surprise of no one, goes downhill eventually. First of all, these six are apparently the only ones there. Alison is the housemother for the entire dorm, not just Room 407. Where are all the other girls she’s cared for? Didn’t they all stay at school over Thanksgiving for this wedding instead of going to see their families? During gift-opening, Alison admits that she’s thinking of postponing the wedding. Why would you tell this to a group of teenagers? Work it out with friends your own age, lady! The New Girls tell her she just has jitters and the Old Girls get mad that Alison’s concerns are being ignored. Alison gets upset and runs out of the restaurant. The six girls with the combined maturity level of a toddler on amphetamines end up in an all-out brawl that culminates with Shelley shoving chocolate cake into Jane’s face. What is WRONG with these people? How is that acceptable behaviour in any company? If I ever saw someone do this in real life, I would immediately label them dangerous. For real. If you’re that unstable that you can’t control yourself in civilized society, I’m keeping my distance from you. This incident is kind of glossed over in the effort to get to the next chapter, but there really should have been consequences for Shelley, such as that no one speaks to her again, ever.

When they get back to Baker House, after having all walked home together (I would have called a cab, commissioned a Learjet, whatever to get away from Unstable Shelley) a videocassette is waiting at the front desk addressed to the Old Girls. The richest girl in their dorm has her own VCR, and isn’t very nice. But she’s trying to get on Jane’s good side because Jane set her up with a friend of Neal’s, so she lets them play the tape in her room. (If she’s so selfish, why would Jane have fixed her up with anyone?) The tape is an apology from David, in the form of a newscast, recorded at his anchor desk, in which he asks for another chance from the Old Girls. As usual, the Old Girls are skeptical and the New Girls are swooning. As an aside, the Old Girls wonder where they’ll sleep that night, since Alison will probably want her privacy. Dana says they can bunk in with her sister Maggie. Uh, does anyone want to make sure three extra people are OK with Maggie’s roommate? And what kind of security is in this dorm, that random strangers can come and just lie around wherever and for however long they want?

The phone is ringing when they get back up to 407, and Toby is delighted to find that it’s Randy. Only he’s calling for Dana. Dana agrees to meet him, then feels bad for Toby, who tells her that she and Randy need to work out whatever’s going on between them. Then Toby heads off to mope in the broom closet. Is this the first mention of the infamous fourth-floor broom closet, the only place where a Canby Hall girl can get some privacy? I remember Andy/Jane/Toby’s crowd using it a lot, but not so much the older crowd. Anyway, Dana and Randy go for a drive, talk about how incompatible they are, and then Dana kisses him. I HATE DANA.

Meanwhile Faith has gone to check on Michael and his broken heart. They have a nice exchange while he’s making hot chocolate, where he says that the trick is not to use instant mix, but to make it the old-fashioned way, like her mother used to. Faith states that her mother works full-time and uses instant everything. “Well, your grandmother then,” says Michael. “She was a lawyer,” responds Faith. “But I think my grandfather used to make lemonade from real lemons.” I never knew Faith’s grandmother was a lawyer (and neither did any of the other ghostwriters, I’m sure) but I like that touch. Anyway, Faith is all set to allow Michael to cry on her shoulder, when she finds out that not only is he happy for Alison, he has a new girlfriend too, a Spanish teacher from Greenleaf High, who walks in at that moment. And why has he been moping around campus looking miserable? Because he had his wisdom teeth pulled out the week before. That doesn’t explain why he kept bolting whenever there was mention of Alison, but OK. Michael and his new love’s forthcoming engagement is implied and Faith leaves totally convinced that the future Mrs. Michael Frank is a prize. She also has brown hair on one page and blonde hair on the very next page, but whatever, I guess. Faith goes back to the dorm and has a midnight conversation with Dana, and they both agree that somehow all this means that they were wrong about David.

Dana goes to convince Alison to call the wedding back on. She bumps into Toby, who is going to do the same thing. Toby is the least likely of the New Girls to do such a thing, being so uncomfortable with other people and social traditions, but she had to be the one so that there was ample opportunity for several annoying paragraphs about how each didn’t know where the other stood with Randy or some such nonsense. Anyway, they both barge in on Alison, who has been going through major anguish and ignoring David’s calls, but has decided she loves him and wants to go through with the wedding after all. So basically … Dana and Toby’s intervention was useless.

The next day is the day of the wedding. Andy and Toby awake to find out about Jane having invited Neal and Cary to the wedding, and that Jane’s idea of a solution is to pretend she’s sick to get out of it. They tell her she needs to tell Cary not to come. She throws a fit about them not supporting her (oh Mylanta, I have heard this song and dance so many times before in this series …) but eventually gets up the courage to call Cary. Only he’s not there, he’s getting fitted for a tuxedo. So once again, her plans to come clean are thwarted.

All six roommates go to help the bride get ready. Again I ask, where is her mother? Sisters? Friends? Cousin Maura? Anyone? This is making Alison look like a pathetic human being with a sad and empty life. Also, it’s really highlighting how different weddings used to be just a few years ago, before the wedding industrial complex ramped up and made every engaged woman into a bridezilla. Alison is getting married a month after getting engaged, in her great-grandmother’s lace gown. Today, with Say Yes to the Dress and that kind of thing, that would never happen; most women wouldn’t dream of wearing anything other than their own wallet-busting selection. Plus you’d have a hairstylist and makeup artist following you around all day, not some random kids getting you ready an hour before. Dana’s maid of honour outfit is a dress Alison’s opera-singing great-aunt wore on stage. Today, a bridesmaid’s dress would cost no less than a month’s salary and be selected after no fewer than three months of angst-filled bridesmaid-dress shopping.

Anyway, the six 407 girls primp Alison up (Shelley is supposedly “the best stylist among them” and uses hot rollers to create a “cascade of curls.” She’s done Iowa proud!) Dana does Alison’s makeup with blue and silver eyeshadow. Hawt! Each of them tries on Alison’s veil and imagines herself as a bride. Then they all get dressed, and Alison’s “wonderful” dress is described as having puffed long sleeves and a scalloped neckline. Have I used my “hawt” quota for this post? Anyway, then PA shows up at the door with her wedding gift. Turns out there’s another line to the wedding rhyme. It actually goes

Something old, something new

Something borrowed, something blue

And a sixpence in her shoe.

 So PA has somehow managed to procure a sixpence. And a double rainbow appears in the sky. Things are looking good for our wannabe bride.

But yet! They get to the chapel and David is missing. As Alison hasn’t spoken to him that day, out of superstition, no one knows where he is. Neal and Cary are there, though, sitting together, and haven’t figured out they’re both there as Jane’s date. Vince, David’s station’s sportscaster and his best man (evidently David, at least, has friends) shows up, but he is David-less. Alison’s parents walk in and gush over how lovely she looks in her great-grandmother’s wedding dress. Where were they when she was getting ready? Who sees their daughter for the first time on her wedding day at the church??

Time passes, the guests get restless, the priest offers some unhelpful advice about grooms who never do show up, the girls wonder if the wedding really is off, and Alison is about to lose the last of her marbles. Finally, though, in dramatic YA-fiction fashion, a horse gallops up and stops just outside the chapel. It’s Randy, with David hanging on to him for dear life. Turns out David’s car broke down, and in this pre-cell phone era, had no way of contacting anyone. Randy found him and delivered him to the church, and is now invited to stay for the wedding. Everyone files into their seats. Faith is the wedding photographer. Gag me. I hope Alison forgets to pay her. Also, Dana is not only the maid of honour but is the only bridesmaid. If the only person I could ask to stand up for me at my wedding was some kid I once kept an eye on, I’d be so embarrassed I’d forego the wedding party entirely. Anyway, the wedding goes off without any further hitches, and they are declared man and wife, and then woman and husband, because Alison is an “ardent feminist.”

Dana is occupied with maid-of-honour duties, and also with a new crush on Vince (I HATE DANA, have I mentioned that? I hope she never comes back to this stupid series, but I know my wish doesn’t come true) so Toby gets Randy all to herself, and he tells her she looks pretty. Barf. I wish everyone would just dump these doofus guys. None of them are worth a dime, with the possible exception of Neal. Official Wedding Photographer Faith takes pictures of the wedding party outside the chapel wearing Groucho Marx noses and glasses. Classy. Meanwhile, Jane is finally forced to come clean to Neal and Cary, both of whom do exactly what she deserves, which is get up and leave.

The reception is in the Greenleaf Inn which is said to be full of “historic glamour” and “perfect for a traditional bride like Alison.” I thought Alison’s whole thing was that she was hippy and modern and quirky (and also afflicted with Alzheimer’s)? Dana spends the entire night talking to Vince and ignoring Randy, but thinks it’s OK because he’s talking to and learning to dance with Toby. Ugh, Dana. HATE. Then Cary shows up again and tells Jane that he and Neal were hurt, and Jane should apologize to Neal and make it up to him. “Why are you giving me such good advice on my relationship with my other boyfriend?” she asks. So now Neal is her other boyfriend? I thought she broke up with him in the last book! I am so confused! Also, in need of a life. Anyway, Cary says he’s confident he, the cool rocker, will win Jane in the end. Sure, buddy. Toby and Dana end up in the ladies’ room together, and Dana tells Toby she’s realized she and Randy aren’t right for each other and she wants a guy more like Vince. Toby is relieved that Dana won’t be tying up Randy’s future, and tells Dana to go tell him that. Dana and Randy dance and resolve all their issues (I guess) and the most surprising couple on the dance floor is Cary and headmistress PA. Alison tosses her bouquet and Shelley catches it. Shelley and Jane make up, for some unknown reason. Then the girls decorate the newlyweds’ car, Alison whispers tearful goodbyes and nonsense about how she couldn’t have had this wedding without them (yeah, she could have had a better one) and the married couple heads off to their honeymoon in Niagara Falls.

The next morning, the six girls of 407 are having brunch in the room. Each of them brings something, and Shelley’s contribution is something called “Iowa Cooler,” which is apple, orange and grape juice with a shot of chocolate syrup. That is … disgusting. And totally sounds like something an adult ghostwriter would think up in a failed attempt to be quirky. Anyway, since we’re now at the end of the book, the Old Girls and New Girls have had their obligatory Resolution of Conflicts and are all besties, and they end this ridiculous story by tumbling onto the front lawn of Baker in what is described as a big pile of leaves and friendship. And also my vomit.

Selected randomness:

– Maggie notes that Andy has been seen walking around campus with a “goony” look on her face and Matt Hall’s arm around her shoulder. Neither Jane nor Toby know about Andy’s boyfriend, yet he’s her date to Alison’s wedding. How are they so out of the loop?

– Dana’s little half-brother is named Joey now, not Josh. Of course, he’s also Maggie’s little half-brother, but no one ever mentions that.

– Quote from one of the Old Girls, about Alison: “If she threw over Michael, who has got to be one of the most terrific guys in the world, it must be for some guy who’s incredibly rich and famous and good-looking. Robert Redford’s already married, so who does that leave?” Dude is now 78 years old! And at the time of this book’s publication (1986) he had just divorced his wife of 27 years, so he, technically speaking, was available.

– The head dietician of Canby Hall’s horrible dining hall is now one Mrs. Sharp (guess Mrs. Merriweather got canned after trying to make the improvements suggested during the Truth Pledge) who describes “eggs Benny” this way: “You ever heard of eggs Benedict? Well eggs Benny’s sort of like that.” Tempting!

– Jane’s mother still tucks her in at night when she’s home.

Oh my goodness, that was painful to get through. Let’s collectively erase it from our minds. What’s up next? A book I remember well: Jane and Toby are helping out at Andy’s family’s restaurant in Chicago! Will disaster ensue? Is the Pope Catholic? See you on the flip side!

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10 responses »

  1. I had this book as a kid and it never occurred to me to wonder why Alison didn’t have any other friends/family. That said, this book is way better than the one where they take care of Alison’s kids. I can’t believe that’s how the series ended.

    • I could not agree with you more. That last book is truly horrible. The Old 407 Girls are just total scumbags in that one. Why would Alison entrust her babies to six former, warring students? It makes no sense at all, and it is a really poor end to this entire series, but no doubt the publisher just pulled the plug with no warning! And come to think of it, why is Alison attached to the New 407 Girls at all, given that she was only their housemother for 3 months? Even Jane, who isn’t a new girl, wasn’t in Baker House the year before. They must be spiking her food or something. Someone drug-test Alison!

      • Yeah, it doesn’t make sense that the new girls are all up in her wedding and shower planning at all. I guess just being in room 407 makes you special. I’m actually surprised the guy in the baby book didn’t fall for Dana what with her being so awesome and all. I guess her amazing NYC wardrobe couldn’t make up for the fact that she isn’t blond.

  2. This had me in fits of giggles. A few notes:

    – You didn’t mention PA’s “woodsy” leaf raking ensemble, which was quite hilarious.
    – “Sandra’s Styles”, heh. It’s a given that any store with either “fashion” or “style” in its name will have clothes that are neither fashionable nor stylish. Add a woman’s name to it and the prospect only gets worse. But I will say that, at the time, those outfits as described actually sounded stylish and attractive to me. It was the 80s after all.
    – It didn’t seem so out of character to me that Toby should cry. That girl must be experiencing major culture shock. She’s gone from living on an isolated ranch where her only companions were her dad, the hired men, and her horse, to living in a New England boarding school where she gets made fun of for her clothes, has very little time to herself, and is suddenly having to interact with boys in a romantic context. It’s all new to her and she doesn’t have the tools for it. She’s not really tough, only shy and quiet. Remember how she teared up after Dee made her doughnuts in the first book? She’s a really likeable person though, very honest and intelligent, and I always liked it that she wound up with Neal, who was too good for Jane.
    – The Canby Hall pool *has* been mentioned before. I think it was in the very first book. It’s said of Faith that she keeps bumping into the end of the pool because she can’t wear either glasses or contacts while swimming. I remember this because, as someone who needs glasses and done a lot of swimming without ever once come close to bumping into a pool wall, it’s ridiculous.
    – I was going to say that Shelley once spent all night in the broom closet writing an assignment for French class, but I think what she actually did was use a special little study room (which students were only supposed to use during study hours, not that late at night). This study room was also never mentioned again.
    – I agree that it’s totally poor writing that Alison seems to have no other life outside of her supposed “relationship” with the girls of 407. Reminds me of that other 80s chestnut, the TV show Head of the Class, in which all the school clubs consisted of only the IHP class. School newspaper, a play, the school radio station, yearbook, fashion show, you name it, they were the only kids in on it. And despite being so brilliant, they all spent about six years in high school. At least Canby Hall has other students and they graduate in a somewhat realistic time frame.
    – I actually liked the idea of getting “something old, something new” themed shower presents. Very cute, really. I want to use that sometime.
    – Michael and his Mr. Coffee for one. Such pathos. But then maybe his new flame doesn’t like coffee.

    I’m looking forward to the new housemother!

    • Great observations Orange Swan! You’re right, I went back and checked, and in the first book Dana and Faith are in a swim class together. Huh. You’d think I’d be an expert in Canby Hall trivia by now, but evidently not. Still, I stand by my assertion that the pool cannot have been one of their favourite things about their hallowed alma mater, if it was only mentioned once.

      I totally agree about the something old, something new idea. It’s great for a wedding present, and shouldn’t be tainted by its association with this book. Not that there’s much danger of that given that you and I probably comprise a full 20% of the people on this planet who have read it.

      Know what I realized when I flipped back through #1, Roommates? It was written by Carol White, and was actually done fairly well. This piece of horse excrement was also written by Carol White, and it was awful. Did she have a stroke or something in the interim? Also, she named Dana’s cool Manhattan fashionista mother Carol. A little wishful projection, perhaps?

      And although I still think it would be out of character for Toby to cry in public, having grown up around ranching men, I do agree she is one of the best characters in this series. Way to go, Neal.

      New housemother Merry (or Merrie, depending on the book) is on her way!

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